Sunderland open new Supporters Club Branch in North Korea

Exploring the Far East

Sunderland have announced that they are to open a Supporters Club Branch in North Korea, in what is being described as an attempt to ‘turn the DPRK Red and White’.

The project will be run by lifelong Sunderland supporter Tom Fowdy, who currently lives in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, where he organises visits for tourists to visit the communist nation.

Sunderland aren’t the first English side to have an affinity with North Korea, with non-league outfit Blyth Spartans having an advertising deal with Fowdy’s Visit North Korea company, which has been in place since December 2018.

The Black Cats have been doing plenty of work of late to increase interest in the club, famously filming the Netflix documentary ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’, which showed the ongoings during the club’s relegation season from the Championship.

On the Netflix series, Fowdy told the club’s official website: "It's been eye opening to see the mistakes and disappointments which brought our club down. It's tough to take sometimes, but I cannot say I am not happy with the publicity our club has been able to receive. It's been good for our profile."

It may not have been the successful PR coverage they were hoping for as they dropped further down the football pyramid down to League One, rather than return to the Premier League at the first time of asking like they had planned. However, as Fowdy notes, it's certainly helped raise the profile of the club.

The Far East market is one of the most lucrative in football, with fan bases in Asia growing all the time, though North Korea is one country that has been left largely untouched by the top clubs. However, Sunderland are now looking to become pioneers in the communist state by becoming the most-supported side there.

Sunderland Fans

Taking Sunderland global

Fowdy added: "Our plan is to raise awareness by donating a gradual flow of Sunderland merchandise to the country, including football shirts, scarfs and other memorabilia.

"We will look at donating to local schools, colleges and other institutions. North Koreans do love their football, but they have no access or resources to buy things like football shirts.

"This provides an incredible opportunity not just to develop our fanbase, but to engage in a profound act of charity as well to a people much less fortunate than our own.

"We are starting from scratch. That is the excitement of this challenge.

"They have an awareness of the Premier League and inevitably drift towards the "big teams", but we are going to connect with them in a personal way which no club has ever yet tried."

Twitter reactions

There has been a mixed reaction to the news that North Korea is the host of the newest Sunderland Supporters Club, as has been highlighted via Twitter. Check out some of the best Twitter reactions below.